Water’s Powerful Affect on Muscle Function or Dysfunction

Fist Through Water

Water is a powerful substance that can be both healing and destructive. Water is an abundent substance that we can’t live without. Ever wondered why we are told to keep hydrated? To learn more about water’s role in muscle function and dysfunction I attended Dr. Gerald Pollack’s thought provoking seminar Skeletal Muscle Molecular Mechanics and the Fundamental Principles of Biological Motion Dr. Pollack is a world renown researcher who has been examining and writing about muscle physiology and water for the last 20-30 years. His new book The 4th Phase of Water published in 2013. 

How Muscle Works

The evening began with him using well thought arguments to break down why the sliding filament theory of muscle contraction, which I learned in university is no longer true.

What is True?

  • Tension develops in steps of a factor of N x 2.7nm instead of in linear fashion
    • There are sustaining sarcomeres as well as generator sarcomeres
    • Postural muscles are possible sustainers which can be changed into contractors
  • There isn’t a point of zero tension development as predicted in the sliding filament theory
Pollack Meets Alfred

In the sliding filament theory actin and mysosin (muscle proteins) were previously thought to act much like a rachet set, however Pollack explained that these proteins act differently depending on the load type and are not configured in a straight line. Myosin is aligned in more of a lattice like ladder with space for water to fill in.

Under a small load actin will detach from the myosin and snake over it and reattach further on. While under a large load mysosin will actually unwind.

Is there a 4th Phase of Water?

Our bodies made up of up to 99% water. It is well known that water has at least three phases: solid, liquid and vapour. What about a 4th? Does the structure of water inside our bodies influence the function of muscles? Yes, there is 4th phase of water, the EZ phase of water plays a role in the function and dysfunction of our muscles. Watch the TedX talk he gave at my alma mater the University of Guelph.

​This water is organized in a honey comb structure. It can degrade into mechanical energy and heat – e.g. muscle contractions. A contracted muscle such as a trigger point contains the unorganized water and will need energy to get back to a relaxed state.

How to Influence Internal Water

Water is needed to sustain life, it can also heal us. Remember we can survive without food for several days, but not without water. There are several ways to influence the state of internal water:

What About Joint and Ligament Injuries – Swelling?

Normally the lattice bridges are enough to contain the water within the cell, however these bridges are broken during an acute injury such as an ankle sprain. While there are other cellular things going on, water pools without the the lattice containment. Healing the tissue helps restore the cross-bridges.

This was summary of what I remember from a three hour evening lecture without going into too much biochemical or molecular detail. For more information please watch the above video and read his books which are available at Ebner and Sons. I certainly will.

Alfred Ball

CEO | Practicing Kinesiologist | Certified Fascial Stretch Therapist. He founded Lifemoves in 2007. He has been a Practicing Kinesiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with the NSCA for over 15 years. When he isn't helping people regain their strength and confidence to move with ease he is hanging out with his wife and young son, writing, or training for his next endurance running race. His big audacious goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

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